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Welcome to the Essential Escapes blog, where we give you the latest from the frontline of luxury spa holidays. We interview experts in the field of wellbeing, and bring you unique first-hand reports from discerning spa-goers, covering every corner of the globe. Read our reviews from our hardworking team of spa testers!

Interview with the founder of Kamalaya

We ask Karina Stewart, the inspirational founder of Kamalaya in Thailand, for her insights into the world of healing.

When did you first develop an interest in natural healing?

I grew up in Mexico, and was greatly influenced by my mother’s interest in natural healing. I learned early on about food as medicine, and took particular interest in our weekend excursions to local markets where the healing powers of exotic leaves, roots and flowers – and the occasional dried snake – were revealed by local healers.

What introduced you to Asian spirituality and approach to wellness?

When I was about 14, my mother introduced me to meditation and yoga. I chose to study cultural anthropology and the religious traditions of India, while continuing to attend extracurricular meditation and yoga retreats. When I was 21, I met my spiritual master, Sri Babaji, in northern India. With him, I learned about devotion, about opening my heart and connecting to a much larger experience of life. A few years later, I was greatly influenced by Master Ni Hua Ching, a Taoist master from China. It was his influence that led me to study traditional Chinese medicine and Taoist practices.

Can western and eastern traditions of healing complement each other?

While it is true that they take a very different approach, this does not mean that the two can’t support each other. It is essential however, to consult with qualified and reputable practitioners. The Kamalaya Detox programs are based on principles of Asian holistic healing systems, and then refined and enhanced through western research-based medicine to ensure an effective and safe process.

Has your academic background ever been in conflict with alternative methods of healing?

I have not had any conflict, however my academic background has made me more discerning in the selection of practitioners and the therapies that are offered at Kamalaya. There are numerous alternative healing methods that have been well researched and found to be effective for physical, emotional and mental wellbeing, such as, naturopathy, Ayurveda and homeopathy. Andrew Weil, a Harvard Medical school graduate, is a pioneer in bringing these various traditions into mainstream medical environments. In the past 20 years, research has also been verifying the intimate connection between our emotional and mental states and the impact these have on our physical health, particularly our immune system.

What natural products have you found to have the most potent properties?

If I have to narrow it down to a single product, it might be fish oil (tested to be free of heavy metals and other impurities). Fish oils have a strong anti-inflammatory effect throughout the body, including the heart and brain. Additionally, I would add a herbal tea, such as Rooibos, for its rich mineral content and calming effect on the nervous system.

What brought you to Koh Samui?

Illness brought me here; wellness kept me here! At the time, my husband John was very ill and I knew of a particular herb that could help him which grew abundantly on the island. We came here so he could rest and heal.

Have any of your guests had a particularly transforming experience?

From healing of long held emotional conflicts, to letting go of unresolved issues, to completing a book during their stay, finding inspiration in their career or relationship, or finding a new direction and making a complete career change, these are some of things that our guests find transformational. The common denominator is that our guests seem to reconnect with themselves, and in so doing, rediscover the source of health, joy, and inspiration within them. As one of our guests so eloquently expressed, “Sometimes there are periods in life when you tend to forget how special you are. After only 7 days here, I left feeling very special again. Thanks to all of you.”

What’s next for Kamalaya and the world of healing?

We have introduced Balance & Revitalise to help the increasing number of guests who were depleted and on the verge of adrenal burnout. At the moment, I’m working on a new Emotional Balance program. This is in response to the guests who express a need for off-loading old and limiting beliefs so that they can approach life with a fresher and more relevant perspective.

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